Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Backstrom's Future

If one thing is quite clear following last night's 3-1 victory over Vancouver, is that the Wild still need Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom made 35 saves and helped give the Wild sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division.

As you can see, Backstrom made some huge saves to preserve the Wild's 3-1 win.

So far this season, Backstrom carries a 14-7-2 record with a 2.34 GAA and .915 save percentage. None of those stats are towards the top of the NHL leaderboard, but it does not paint a picture of how well Backstrom has played this season. And you may remember previously this year, that I offered my support of him following a tough loss.

In his 23 games this season, Backstrom has allowed 4 or more goals just 4 times this season. He does not have a shutout (His closest was his relief appearance against Chicago on January 28th, where he did not allow a goal after taking over for Josh Harding 5 minutes into the game), but he given up just one goal in 6 games and 2 or fewer in 15 games.

Also take into consideration that the past two seasons, Backstrom has only 22 and 19 wins respectively in those years. His GAA is considerably lower than the past two years (2.66, 2.43), and his save percentage is about the same as his career average (.918).

Backstrom was also touted as the 7th best player in Wild history on this blog a few months ago.

Why all of this is important now, is that Backstrom is in the final year of his 4 year, $24 million deal, and there has been no signs of whether or not he will return next year. Backstrom's age (35), more than likely has something to do with the fact he is not under contract past this year (But as we learned with goalies like Dwayne Roloson, Chris Osgood in recent memory, goalies can still play well despite their age).

But as the Wild continues to win big games like Monday night, with big help from Backstrom, one more thing is becoming clear: The Wild will need to retain him past this year.

As long as Backstrom continues to play well, he needs to be kept here. Good goaltending is hard to find in this league. He may not have league leading stats, but he does his job better than most others.

Josh Harding has been M.I.A. since he was placed on IR several weeks ago, and there has been almost next to no news on his condition. Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper are having great years for Houston and have had stints with the Wild this year, but it is yet to be determined if either of them could handle the #1 role.

At this point in the season, it is probably too late to be thinking of a contract extension. So talks will have to wait until the Wild season ends. And when it does, one should certainly hope that Chuck Fletcher's first priority will be to get Niklas Backstrom to re-sign here for another couple of years.

Because without Backstrom's brilliance in net this year, the Wild would most certainly not be in first place in the Northwest.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

No comments:

Post a Comment